senior-chief-petty-officer-scott-cooper-daytonA highly decorated Navy explosive specialist who was killed by an IED blast in northern Syria on Thanksgiving Day is the first U.S. combat casualty in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, according to the U.S. Navy.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Cooper Dayton, 42, died after being wounded by an improvised explosive device near the northern Syria town of Ayn Issa. He served in Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two based in Virginia Beach, Va.

In a statement, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said the entire coalition fighting ISIS “sends our condolences to this hero’s family, friends and teammates.”

“On this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from ISIL’s hateful and brutal ideology,” Townsend said.

Dayton, from Woodbridge, Va., joined the Navy in February 1993.

He received 19 awards serving the U.S. for 23 years, including: Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Commendation Medal, seven Navy and Achievement Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy “E” Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, two Iraq Campaign Medals and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

During his military career, Dayton was qualified as an enlisted explosive ordnance disposal warfare specialist and enlisted surface warfare specialist.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” by the news, calling it “a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe.”

The secretary added, “Please keep this service member’s family, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers, and this Thanksgiving I hope you will join me in expressing thanks to all of our dedicated troops who selflessly protect us every day.”

Commander Rear Adm. Brian Brakke of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command offered his “deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton, who made the ultimate sacrifice on a day we set aside time to give thanks for our freedom and to recognize the men and women who defend that right.”

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